Neal Clark, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance - Page 3 of 3


  • February 17th, 2015

    Please tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that the current San Rafael Desert Motorized Travel Planning process should not result in expanded off-road vehicle use in the San Rafael Desert. Click here to send your comments by February 21, 2015.

    SanRafaelDesert(2)_RayBloxham

    San Rafael Desert. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Utah’s San Rafael Desert, included within the San Rafael River, Sweetwater Reef, Flat Tops and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness units, is a remote, undeveloped, and sublime landscape. Located east of the San Rafael Reef and expanding to Labyrinth Canyon, the San Rafael Desert is rich in archaeological sites and provides habitat for species such as pronghorn antelope, kit fox, and the burrowing owl.

    The BLM’s Price Field Office is in the early stages of motorized travel planning for the San Rafael Desert. Generally, SUWA is supportive of the BLM taking a hard look at motorized travel designations on public lands, but nearly half of the current travel planning area was already analyzed by the agency as part of its 2003 San Rafael Route Designation Plan. That plan, although not perfect, involved a lengthy public process and survived both administrative appeal and litigation. SUWA supported the plan and even intervened on behalf of the BLM in those legal proceedings.

    While it’s unclear why the BLM is using limited agency resources on motorized travel planning in areas that only recently underwent the same analysis, what is clear is that the motorized community sees this as an opportunity to create new off-road vehicle trails and to re-open areas and trails that were specifically restricted from motorized use. These include the Junes Bottom area and route proliferation along the rims of Labyrinth Canyon, through many unique dune environments, and within culturally-rich canyons such as Cottonwood Wash.

    Labyrinth Canyon

    Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    We know that any rollback of the current travel plan for the San Rafael Desert will result in increased adverse impacts to wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and wilderness-quality lands. This approach directly contradicts the BLM’s obligation to minimize impacts of its designated travel system on natural and cultural resources.

    Please tell the BLM, by February 21, 2015, that the current San Rafael Desert Travel Planning process should not result in increased off-road vehicle routes in the San Rafael Desert and that the BLM should minimize the impacts of its designated travel system on natural and cultural resources.

    Thank you for your support in protecting this wilderness-quality landscape.

  • December 10th, 2014

    The beautiful Indian Creek area to the east of Canyonlands National Park is once again threatened by a proposed all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail. Please tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to deny San Juan County’s request for a right-of-way to construct this unnecessary trail.

    On two previous occasions we’ve notified you of San Juan County’s request for a right-of-way to construct a new ATV trail in the Indian Creek area. Based on overwhelming public opposition to the new trail, BLM has twice “revised” its Environmental Assessment (EA) by adding new alternative route alignments. Unfortunately, instead of taking the prudent path and choosing the “No Action” alternative, BLM continues trying to develop alternative alignments that will nevertheless result in the construction of a new ATV trail.

    Bridger Jack Messa.  Photo credit: Ecoflight

    Bridger Jack Mesa. Photo credit: EcoFlight

    In the latest EA, all of the alternative alignments for the ATV route will cross through lands identified by BLM as possessing wilderness characteristics; will facilitate increased ATV use in areas bordering the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, such as Bridger Jack Mesa, Lavender Canyon, and Davis Canyon; and will result in increased user conflicts in an area that is primarily enjoyed by quiet recreationists such as rock climbers, hikers, and backpackers. The ATV trail could also adversely affect Indian Creek – a desert stream that supports a variety of wildlife species as it meanders through the redrock and high desert grasslands on its way to the Colorado River.

    The Indian Creek area, located on the east side of Canyonlands National Park and south of Moab, Utah, is famous for its dramatic and sheer Wingate Sandstone cliffs, and is an internationally-known and treasured rock climbing destination. Beyond the sheer walls, as Indian Creek continues its journey downstream towards Indian Creek Falls and its eventual confluence with the Colorado River, ATV users enjoy many miles of trails that provide for recreational adventures and exploration of the vast Canyonlands basin.

    Even though the BLM has designated more than 3,000 miles of motorized routes in San Juan County, including dozens of routes in and near the Indian Creek area, the county is requesting a right-of-way for yet another trail “which connects to ATV use occurring on designated routes in the Lockhart Basin area and . . . provide[s] a recreational opportunity for ATV enthusiasts by precluding use of OHVs [off-highway vehicles] which are wider than 65 inches.”

    The Indian Creek corridor is a world-class scenic and recreation destination and should be managed as such. There is absolutely no reason the BLM should relinquish its control over these spectacular public lands by granting a right-of-way to San Juan County for the construction of a new, superfluous ATV route. This is especially true given the hundreds of miles of motorized routes that already exist in the Canyonlands basin.

    There’s a reason the proposed ATV trail has raised concern from conservationists, quiet recreation user groups, and the National Park Service; the proposal simply does not make sense from any perspective other than through the lens of increasing ATV use in the Indian Creek area.  Increasing motorized use in a world-class scenic and recreation area, which also serves as the gateway to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, is a shortsighted management approach by BLM. As such, the agency should uphold its responsibility to all public land users by choosing the “No Action” alternative.

    Please tell BLM, by December 18, 2014, to not grant a right-of-way for this unnecessary ATV route in the Indian Creek area by choosing the “No Action” alternative.

    With your help, we can stem the tide of ATV abuse in redrock country and preserve the scenic and wilderness qualities of the Indian Creek area.

Page 3 of 3123